If your life is anything like mine, a month or two ago you thought to yourself, "Wow, December isn't looking that busy." And before the next 30 days are gone, you'll be saying to yourself, "Wow, December was really busy! Good thing January won't be as busy." for the moment we will ignore the likely reality that kicking off 2020 will find your calendar filling up faster than you ever thought possible and talk a little bit about December and the season of Advent.
Let me first start by saying, do what works for you and your family. For example, a friend of mine many years ago now had a crazy Advent season. Work brought some unexpected challenges. Family brought some unplanned hospital stays. Kids had gotten a year older and more involved in school and church functions. So Thanksgiving weekend, she put up the Christmas tree. No ornaments, no lights, just the tree. A week later she got the lights on. About a week after that she was able to get the ornaments on. And finally, the week before Christmas, she was getting presents wrapped and under the tree. She commented that it became an unexpected celebration of Advent for her and her family as they anticipated when they were going to be able to complete the next step of Christmas tree set up. While she was lamenting the traditional Advent activities she did with her family, her family was embracing a new way of anticipating Christmas. So my hope is that just one of these ideas might inspire you to try some small thing to make this season of anticipation more meaningful for you this year.
Also, 110% of these ideas can all be found on Pinterest with many more. So if these don't connect with you, I would encourage you to take some time to look through hundreds more there!
1. The Gospel of Luke - Did you realize the Gospel of Luke has 24 chapters in it? Consider reading one chapter a day in December. You'll cover the entire life of Jesus as you anticipate the celebration of his birth on the 25th!
2. The Giving Manger - Are you wishing there was an alternative to Elf on the Shelf which focused more on giving gifts instead of getting gifts? On being kind instead of being mischievous? While you can find it on Pinterest, it was actually my mom who brought this to my attention just this past weekend. It has a book, manger, baby Jesus, and straw to go with it. As you do an act of kindness for another person, you fill up the manger with straw so it is ready for the baby Jesus on Christmas morning.
3. Advent Family Devotional Booklet - This booklet is available for free download (it does require signing up for a free resource library service). It has page for each day of Advent featuring something to color, a passage of scripture, a short reflection, and a question to talk about. The graphics appear to be pretty simple and designed with younger color-er's in mind.
4. Names of Jesus Ornaments - You can choose to download the black and white version and enjoy coloring them yourself. Or you can choose to download a color version and simply enjoy cutting them out and hanging them up someplace in your home. Either way, there are 25 ornaments with the different names of Jesus found in scripture for you to meditate on as you anticipate Christmas. (Another website suggested putting the names of Jesus on the paper to make a paper chain. As you tear off a link each night, you can find where in Scripture that name is given to Jesus.)
5. Advent Candle Prayer - Perhaps doing something each day is simply overwhelming for you. What about once a week? Once a week have a meal together and, at some point, light a candle in an advent wreath (for the record, 4 candles grouped together is the simplest way to make an advent wreath, no need to be fancy unless you want to be!) Say a simple prayer like the one in the picture and talk about one of the four themes of advent.
6. It Takes a Village - This advent calendar challenges you with a different act of kindness each day. The thing I like about it, some of those acts are about reaching out to others while other acts are about connecting more deeply with your immediate family and close friends. While some activities require you to go out and about, others ask you stay in. It would be easy enough to switch things around to make it work for you depending on your schedule and, especially for those of us in the upper Midwest, the weather!
7. Reverse Advent Calendar - Instead of getting something each day, how about giving something each day? This calendar asks you to fill a box with a different food item each day for donation to your local food shelf when Christmas comes around. Depending on your Christmas plans, perhaps you could pair your donation drop off with some volunteer time as well.
So what are some of your favorite Advent ideas? EMAIL us and let us know! Check back and see what might have been added!